Diocesan College

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This article is about Diocesan College (Bishops) in Cape Town, South Africa. For the school in Quebec, see Bishop's College School.
Diocesan College (Bishops)
Diocesan college bishops crest.png
Motto Pro Fide Et Patria
Established 1849
Type All-Boys Independent College School
Affiliation Anglican, HMC, ISASA
Principal Mr Guy Pearson
Founder Bishop Robert Gray D.D.
Chaplain Fr Terry Wilke
Grades PreK - 13
Location Camp Ground Road, Rondebosch, 7700,
Cape Town, South Africa
Colours Navy and light Blue
Fees (2014) R 96 360 (tuition)
R 168 140 (tuition & boarding)[1]
Website www.bishops.org.za

The Diocesan College, or Bishops as it is more commonly known, is an independent, all-boys school situated in the suburb of Rondebosch in Cape Town, South Africa. Established in 1849 it now consists of three schools: the College for grades 8 – 12 and post matric (an optional year following grade 12 which covers the A-levels); the Preparatory School for grades 3 – 7 and the Pre-Preparatory School for Pre-Kindergarten – Grade 0-2.


The institution is divided into three parts. Each functions largely independently of the others; but at the same time facilities are shared. The College is situated in Campground Road at the main campus, and a small portion of this land is used for the Pre-Preparatory School. The Preparatory School is situated in Fir Road, Rondebosch close to the College campus.[citation needed]

The Principal of the Diocesan College is Mr Guy Pearson. Mr Greg Brown is the headmaster of the Preparatory School and Noell Andrews is Head of Department for the Pre-Preparatory School. Fr Terry Wilke is the Chaplain of the school, an important role as the school is an Anglican church School.[citation needed]

The College has eight houses: Founders, School and White are the boarding houses, and Birt, Gray, Kidd, Mallett and Ogilvie are for day-scholars. Each house has about 70 – 100 students, who are looked after by a housemaster, who have one or two deputies. Tutors work in each house, and follow the progress of a student throughout his high-school career. Tutor groups are set up in a vertical system, meaning there are around 3–5 boys from each grade within in the tutor group.[citation needed]

The Preparatory School follows a similar structure with four houses: Van der Bijl (for boarders and day-boys), Bramley, Brooke and Charlton. Grades 6 and 7 feature "'Home Groups"' which have a similar structure to Tutor Groups at the college but run on a more informal basis.[2]


The Collegiate of the Diocese of Cape Town (hence the name Diocesan College) was founded by Bishop Robert Gray, the first Anglican bishop of Cape Town, in 1849 at his house, Bishopscourt in Cape Town.[3] He founded two schools there, one of which was described as for the "native children" and the other for "European children" (this being the current school). Living with schools was hard for the bishop and this led him to establish the schools elsewhere. The black children moved to accommodation near the city, where Zonnebloem College now is. This movement left the bishop short of money and so he bought an unproductive farm in Campground Road, Rondebosch, to which the school was moved and on which it remains.[citation needed]

The school did not prosper until Canon George Ogilvie arrived from prosperous St. George's Grammar School, attached to St. George's Cathedral, Cape Town in the city. The canon brought some boys with him and the bishop's school flourished. It then became the Diocesan College, but that too was a mouthful and it was generally referred to as the Bishop's school – hence its nickname. On arriving at Bishops, Canon George Ogilvie brought an early adoption of the game of rugby to the school which is noted as the introduction of rugby to South Africa.[citation needed]

Originally the school catered mainly for boarders, but since the 1970s it has had more day scholars than boarders. For some years it ran university classes, but in 1910[chronology citation needed] those classes left for the South African College, which was later to become the University of Cape Town.[citation needed]

The school had only three principals between 1919 and 1982[chronology citation needed] – Harold Birt, Hubert Kidd, the first layman to be the principal, and Anthony Mallett. Since then it has had three more. Mr Guy Pearson is currently the Principal.

Since 1921,[chronology citation needed] a post matric year has offered students the opportunity to write the University of Cambridge A-Level examinations. In recent times, girls have been admitted to this year. Boarding facilities are also available.


WCED Results 1998 1999 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008
Number of candidates 124 123 102 113 123 133 128 140 136 143 140
Number of failures 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
University endorsement (%) 98.4 99.1 98 100 96 96.2 99.2 99.3 97.8 98.6 97.8
A aggregates (%) 21.8 32.5 35.2 41.6 39 43.6 49 47.1 41.2 49.7 25.7
Subject distinctions 135 179 148 211 225 267 290 279 289 320 330

Leavers write the Western Cape Education Department examinations. Post matric students (of which there are few) can write three A-levels. The pupil-teacher ratio is 20:1. 2008 was the first year of the new National Senior Certificate examination.[citation needed]

School scholarships

The College offers numerous scholarships, mostly to new students in grade 8 which last until grade 12, covering certain percentages of the tuition fees of the college. The recipients of these scholarships are expect to maintain a high standard of excellence in their respective award areas, and scholarships may be forfeited if this is not done (For example, if a music scholarship recipient does not continue with music until grade 12, he will lose the scholarship). The current scholarships are:

  • The Bishops Scholarship for all-rounders
  • The Theron Scholarship for academic excellence
  • One Major and two Minor scholarships for academic excellence in each of the three subjects of Mathematics, Science, and English, each of which has a separate scholarship examination which must be written by prospective students
  • One Major and two Minor scholarships for musical proficiency, for which prospective students are required to play an audition
  • The Claude Brown Organ Scholarship is for organists who wish to enter a post-matric year at the College. They are expected to contribute to the active musical life of the College chapels, and act as assistant organist to the Director of Music
  • The Bishops Rugby Scholarship which is awarded to a grade 10 boy who excels in rugby

The school also awards bursaries. These include:

  • Bursaries for the sons of Old Diocesans, so that needy students can attend the school.
  • Bursaries and remissions so that diversity targets can be met.
  • A two-thirds remission for sons of the Anglican clergy.[citation needed]
Rhodes Scholarship

Bishops is one of only four schools in the world to offer an annual Rhodes scholarship since 1901 to an ex-pupil to attend the University of Oxford. This is a result of the school having been part of the initial Rhodes Scholarship Experiment. When approached to help formulate the plan for the scholarship, Bishops was suggested by Mr Ernest Kilpin (later Sir Ernest, after he was knighted for services to the Union of South Africa) as a suitable school for the experiment and Cecil Rhodes agreed. Like Bishops' founder Robert Gray, he mistrusted purely secular education..[4] A shortlist is selected yearly from boys who are matriculating that year and their progress is monitored. After completing their first degree, a student from the shortlist is awarded the scholarship for further studies at Oxford. Starting with the 2012 shortlist, alumni of St George's Grammar School, St Cyprian's School, Herschel and The LEAP School 1 will also be eligible for selection to the Scolarship

Uniform and Awards[edit]

Boys in uniform.

Bishops College has two uniforms: Formal dress known as "Number Ones", and lighter khaki dress known as "Khakis". Number Ones are worn on all formal occasions such as start-, mid- and end-of-term Eucharists, Evensong, Eisteddfod Night, derby 1st team matches, and other special events. While most other schools have an official changeover from summer uniform to winter uniform, College boys are allowed to wear either Number Ones or Khakis at their leisure, excepting the above circumstances where Number Ones are required. Boys are not, however, allowed to "mix and match", but must instead wear one complete uniform set, excepting the instance where grade 11s and 12s may wear a white shirt with their khakis.[citation needed]

Boys must wear ties and blazers to chapel in the morning, and must remove all scarves, rain jackets, etc. which they are otherwise allowed to wear around the school. Blazers are technically compulsory until morning break, and also cannot be worn without a tie. When wearing khakis, boys may remove their ties and roll up their sleeves. Boys are technically not allowed to do this with Number Ones, but during the hottest part of summer most teachers are lenient in that regard when the boys are inside classrooms. Grade 11s and 12s wearing khakis and a white shirt are technically not allowed to remove their tie.[citation needed]


Preparatory students may only wear a standard-issue tie, which is dark blue with thin horizontal light blue stripes. The College students have a different regulation tie, dark blue with mitres, and each House has its own tie. Various ties are awarded, such as an Academic Tie (for a student who has achieved an aggregate of 80% thrice), an All-Rounders Tie (works on a points-system) or the Distinction Tie (for an exceptional achievement usually representation at an International Event). All members of the vote-in societies (Forum and Ten Club), members of the Students Representative Forum, the Public Relations Group and senior members of ensembles have their own ties. Ties are also awarded for service or for attending the school for thirteen years. Special ties (such as tour or exchange ties) may be worn on Fridays. The sheer number and diversity of ties at Bishops has entered the school's popular culture, especially as there is no formalised list of all the ties that may be worn at school.[citation needed]


Excellence in a specific school activity is rewarded with colours, which are small embroidered badges sewn onto a boy's blazer beneath the mitre, displaying initials representing the activity. Colours represent a high level of skill and proficiency, commitment to the activity, and service and leadership, though every colours award has its own specific criteria. Colours are awarded for every school sport, as well as for music, visual arts, drama, and academics. Boys are initially awarded half colours, where only the initial colours patch is awarded, and then may later earn full colours, where a "D.C." patch is affixed before the previous one, and the boy will then have earned the right to wear a colours jersey (see below).[citation needed]


In addition to the normal plain dark blue school jersey, there are award jerseys which boys may only wear once they have earned them. A white jersey is worn when the student has achieved full colours in a discipline excepting academics. A dark blue jersey is worn when a boy achieves full colours for academics, and these jerseys are significantly prized due to their rarity. In the past, a light blue Cadets jersey was also awarded, but this has since been discontinued at the closure of the Cadets programme.[citation needed]

Exchange Programme[edit]

Bishops has an ‘exchange relationship’ with a number of schools around the world – schools in North and South America, the United Kingdom, Europe, India, Australia and New Zealand. Approximately 30 grade 10 boys are selected to go on exchange each year. Each boy is away on exchange for a term and is expected to host an exchange boy for a term. Exchanges are offered at Bishops to schools in India, Holland, Chile, Argentina, United Kingdom, United States Of America, Australia and New Zealand [5]


Bishops believes in sport being a vital part of an all-rounded high school education, placing emphasis on physical well-being, teamwork, and ethics of competition, and to this extent sport is compulsory throughout a boy's five-year career at the college. All sports are currently done as extra-curriculars, each with a Master-in-Charge to oversee the administrative necessities of the sport and often fulfilling coaching duties as well. Many sports, especially in the higher levels, make use of external coaches.[citation needed]

The sports which Bishops fields multiple representations in against other schools on a regular basis are divided into teams in every age group based on proficiency. Sports where there is not yet school-based competition (such as karate) instead have one practice for all the members of that sport.

Sports are classed according to the season in which they are partaken, namely winter and summer. Bishops currently offers the following sports:[6]

Winter Sports
  • Cross Country
  • First Aid
  • Golf
  • Hockey (Field)
  • Mountain Biking
  • Rugby
  • Squash
Summer Sports
  • Athletics (Track and Field)
  • Basketball
  • Canoeing
  • Climbing
  • Cricket
  • Karate
  • Shooting
  • Swimming
  • Tennis
  • Waterpolo
  • Weights
Year-Round Sports
  • Fencing
  • Fitness Challenge
  • Rowing
  • Sailing
  • Surfing

Bishops has also offered the following sports in the past:[7]

  • Boxing (ended 1970)
  • Fives (ended 1921)
  • Gymnastics

Bishops was the first school in South Africa and in the southern hemisphere to start playing rugby,[8] and the main Piley Rees field is the oldest rugby field in South Africa[citation needed]. The school offers many sports; but the focus is on rugby union and cricket.

Over 20 sports matches are played on a weekly basis against schools in and around Cape Town. Many friendly rivalries have emerged, most notably against the nearby South African College School (SACS), and Rondebosch Boys' High School.

Beginning in 1892, the annual Bishops versus SACS rugby match is considered the oldest in Africa, although the keenest rivalry is often considered to be against Rondebosch Boys' High School. A match against Rondebosch is played twice per year in every sport.[citation needed]

Over the past few years the Bishops Hockey side has gone from strength to strength. In 2010 the side beat all their opponents and scored a record breaking 115 goals, while 3 players made the Provincial u18A side: Robbie Edwards, Seb Golding and Michael Watson, while Watson went on to make the South African u17 side. In 2011 and 2012, Bishops remained undefeated while boasting 6 Provincial u18 players: Michael Watson, Seb Golding, Jacques Tredoux, James Drummond, Charlie Plimsoll and Steven Ryall and two National u19 players: James Drummond and Michael Watson. The Western Province side went on to win the tournament, the first time in 8 years, and Michael Watson and James Drummond were named in the SA u18 side to take on Australia in a 3 test match series. Along with that, Steve Ryall was named in the SA u17 squad.[citation needed]

Fencing at Bishops has become very strong in recent years. The club is predominately a foil club although the other two weapons are offered. Since 2008, Bishops has had at least one fencer with South African Colours in either Épée or Foil and in either U17 Cadet or U20 Junior categories. Most notable of the South African representatives are Landon McClure, who has gone on to represent South Africa on a senior level at the African World Championships where he placed in the top 16 and Robert McGregor who has represented South Africa in more than 5 international competitions including two Junior World Championships.[citation needed]


The Eisteddfod Owl.

Culture plays a vital part of the Diocesan College's mission to provide a well-rounded education, with a great emphasis placed on developing music and the arts both as part of the curriculum and through extramural activities.[citation needed]

Bishops also holds the Bishops Classic Pops every three years in the Cape Town City Hall. The school has two very fine organs (and a smaller chamber organ) in its chapels. In addition, the Music Department has launched three new CDs: Choral Vespers (a recording of the evening service), Tour to Russia (a compilation of repertoire taken to Russia by the Choir and Brass Band in April 2006) and Composers of Bishops (a compilation of compositions by Bishops boys over the past four years).[citation needed]

A number of ensembles exist within the school, the main ones being:

  • Orchestra
  • Choir
  • Windband
  • Brass Band
  • Pipe Band
  • Jazz Band
  • Percussion Ensemble

In addition, there are a number of smaller ensembles, such as a Saxophone Ensemble, which come and go based on the number of proficient students learning that instrument at the time. The Music Department also encourages the formation of rock bands who can use the recording studio equipment.[citation needed]


Bishops aims to enrich the students' cultural experience through the creation of societies at school, which boys can voluntarily attend. Although they all have the same primary objectives, the societies at Bishops take on many forms.

  • "Termly" Societies
    These society meetings take the form of evening meetings once or twice a quarter, where a guest speaker comes in to speak on a topic relevant to the interests of the society. This guest speaker may be an expert or an old hand in his or her field, but can also be a teacher or an older relative of one of the boys. It is usually the responsibility of the society's president and the Master-in-Charge to secure a guest speaker.
    • African Languages
    • Astronomy
    • Democritus Science
    • History Society
    • International Society (travel)
    • Lingua Franca (politics, philosophy, current affairs)
    • Philosophy Society
    Student-Run Societies
    These societies focus more on getting the students to take the initiative and provide material for the society to work with themselves. Often they may involve occasional presentations by senior members, but they are mostly centered around discussion and debate.
    • GIN (Global Issues Network)
      This society aims to tackle environmental and social issues that Bishops students can identify with and aid with in the community. Many issues-based charity initiatives and excellent Science Expo projects have flourished with support from the GIN.
    • Historical Bench
      This society aims to get students involved in discussion and debate on history and current affairs topics themselves, without feeling the need to require expert knowledge. The president presents the members with a short presentation and a topic for discussion, but other members can chair meetings at their request.
    • Public Speaking
      Aimed at students who wish to develop their public speaking skills, it is a slightly more informal society based around formal presentation. It has a very interactive approach to its meetings, focusing on the four main disciplines of reading, prepared speaking, debating, and impromptu speaking. Bishops regularly sends a team to the annual South African National Individual Debating and Public Speaking Championships, and is well known for producing numerous high-ranking national champion public speakers.
    Other Societies
    • Debating
      The debating club is extremely prominent, and has a history of producing Provincial champion teams and individual debaters. It is a very engaging society, with weekly meetings, coaching sessions, and a grade 8 and 9 internal league, all done in World Schools format. It is rumoured that every Head of School at Bishops had been a member of the debating society some time in his school career.
    • BAK! (Bishops Afrikaanse Klub)
    • Drama Society
      This society aims to expose students who may not necessarily be featured actors in the school's productions to the world of the stage through drama workshops run by various outsourced professional dramatists.
    • Impact (Christian Union)
    • Interact (community outreach)
    Invitation-Only Societies
    • The Forum
      The Forum is essentially a humanities-based "coke-and-doughnut" society, but its membership is limited to around 20 members and the guest speakers are always high-profile, presenting on highly intellectual topics. Members are elected by the Chairman and the Master-in-Charge, and receive a unique tie upon their election.
    • Ten Club
      The Ten Club, as the name suggests, is made up of only ten members in grade 12, five of whom are the top-achieving academics and five whom are voted in by the previous Ten Club members. At each meeting, two of the members give a presentation on an intellectual and interesting topic of their choice. Only the members themselves are allowed to attend the meetings, and the headmaster attends as an observer. Members of the Ten Club receive a unique tie upon their election.


Main article: Bishops Eisteddfod

The Bishops Eisteddfod is the greatest cultural event in the calendar, an immense inter-house competition involving the arts. Boys compete in prelim rounds before the mid-year exams, and after exams, school time is devoted solely to inter-house singing practices. The cultural year finishes with the two-day Eisteddfod itself, where the entire time period is devoted to holding finals of the various events, and the inter-house singing competition where the complete results are announced. Every performance by a boy counts for points in each category of the Eisteddfod, and the points are tallied up and adjusted to determine the winners of each section of Speech, Performance, Visual Arts, Music, Singing, and the overall points, each win earning a trophy which is a small mounted owl statuette. The Eisteddfod places emphasis not only on cultural ability, but also on leadership and organizational skills, as the seniors in each house are tasked with managing the entries.


Being an Anglican Christian school, the school has strong Christian values, and maintains traditional links with the Diocese of Cape Town. Chapel services held three times a week and once a term Evensong takes place. This represents an adjustment in emphasis, since in the 1990s, services were held every day, with evensongs on Thursday and Sunday evenings. The school chaplain is the Reverend Terry Wilke. The College has two chapels, both central to life at Bishops. The older and smaller Brooke Chapel is used for more intimate services, while the bigger War Memorial Chapel was built in memory of the Bishops boys who died in service in World War I and is used for daily and Sunday services. A total of 112 Bishops old boys were killed in World War I.[9] In 2007, Bishops was used to elect the new Archbishop of Cape Town, the metropolitan bishop and primate (bishop) of the Anglican Church of Southern Africa.

Activities week[edit]

Activities Week is a week in which all the boys, after their November exams, participate in a camp - usually between 4 to 7 days long. Each grade (with the exception of Grades 10 & 12) have their own "set" of camps from which they can choose from. Activities range from going on the Orange River to skydiving and hiking. Grade 10s participate in the Bishops Epic, a two week long adventure in the Cederberg Mountains, where special emphasis is put on surviving on the skills and talents of those in your group. During this two week long camp the boys are required to partake in a 24 Hour long "solo where they may not make any contact with other students. The aim of these camps is to get boys out of their comfort zone so that they can learn important life skills.

Three Pillar Plan[edit]

The Three Pillar Plan is to raise capital and invest the funds to generate interest and build the Bishops of the future. The three 'pillars' of the plan are: People, Projects and Programmes. Each pillar is to be supported by donors who are either Old Diocesans, current parents or friends of the school.[citation needed]

People: The most significant and important pillar is the People. The aim of this pillar is to increase the number of scholarships and bursaries - currently totaling R1.5million per annum - awarded to scholars. Another goal of the pillar is to attract the best of the best teachers to the College and to enhance development of existing teachers.[citation needed]

Projects: The aim of the Project pillar is to refurbish existing buildings as well as build new ones. Buildings that have been identified for refurbishment are the Mallett Centre and Staff housing. The creation of a new hockey pavilion, lecture theater and classrooms have also been identified as goals.[citation needed]

Programmes: The Bishops' General Endowment Fund is invested to generate an annual income. This is used to guarantee a steady income for the school over a long term. However, this Fund is tiny compared with other schools like Eton College (R2.230b); Harvard (R194b) and Boston College (R700m). The aim is to increase the fund to R160m by 2020.[citation needed]

New Leadership System[edit]

As of 2009, a new system of student leadership has been introduced at Bishops. All Matrics (grade 12s) are given the opportunity to run and manage one of about 20 portfolios in their respective houses. Committee meetings for each portfolio are organised during term and consist of 8 leaders (one from each house) and a teacher in charge. Leaders are appraised by themselves, staff and fellow tutees each quarter and awards are assigned to each leader as appropriate by a committee of housemasters. The system has already shown great potential and will be continued in the future.

Relationships With Other Schools[edit]

Bishops is a member of the G20 Schools Group, a collection of college, preparatory and boarding schools from around the world including, Eton College the United States's Phillips Exeter Academy, Australia's Melbourne Grammar School and Scotch College, and Switzerland's International School of Geneva. Bishops is also a member of the unofficial Elite Seven schools of South Africa. The College also boasts an International Exchange Programme with schools all over the world, with over 30 exchanges taking place annually.


Bishops participates in outreach programs such as the LEAP program. These programs get the students involved in teaching other students from underprivileged schools skills such as computer literacy and chess.

Old Diocesans[edit]

The Old Diocesans' (OD) Union is one of the most active alumni clubs in the country, with membership spanning the globe. The president of the Union is Mr J Arenhold. Former students and staff may join for a once-off membership fee; reunions are often held and correspondence between members is kept up.

Notable alumni:






See also[edit]

External links[edit]


  1. ^ "FEE STRUCTURE 2014". bishops.org.za. Retrieved 9 August 2014. 
  2. ^ "House System". 23 April 2014. 
  3. ^ "Robert Gray: First Bishop of Cape Town". Retrieved 25 August 2006. 
  4. ^ Donald McIntyre. A Century of Bishops. Cape Town and Johannesburg: Juta and co. Ltd.
  5. ^ "Exchange Programme". Retrieved 2014-04-22. 
  6. ^ "Sport at Bishops". April 2014. 
  7. ^ Gardener, John. Bishops 150: A History of the Diocesan College, Rondebosch. Juta, 1997, p.181[ISBN missing]
  8. ^ First SA School at community-rugby.com Accessed August 2007
  9. ^ Lambert, John (2004). "'Munition Factories … Turning Out a Constant Supply of Living Material': White South African Elite Boys' Schools and the First World War". South African Historical Journal 51 (1): 67–86. doi:10.1080/02582470409464830. 
  10. ^ Raymond Ackerman at UCT Graduate School of Business[dead link]
  11. ^ "A builder of others' dreams", Mail & Guardian, 7–13 February 1997, page 27.
  12. ^ Sir Edmund Hakewill-Smith at SA Military History
  13. ^ Vuyani Ngalwana at Personal Finance[dead link]
  14. ^ Julian Ogilvie Thompson at Biography.com[dead link]
  15. ^ Rupert Pardoe at First Rand
  16. ^ Gareth Penny at De Beers Group
  17. ^ Gavin Relly at Dispatch[dead link]
  18. ^ Mark Shuttleworth at whoswhosa[dead link]
  19. ^ P. K. van der Byl at Rhodesiana
  20. ^ fr:Pieter Voltelyn Graham van der Byl[source needs translation]
  21. ^ South African Military History Society: Stradford Edward St Leger
  22. ^ Nicholas Koster at Bishops Blue
  23. ^ Herschelle Gibbs at Cricinfo accessed August 11th 2007
  24. ^ Adrian Kuiper at Cricinfo accessed August 11th 2007
  25. ^ Tuppy Owen-Smith at Cricinfo accessed August 12th 2007
  26. ^ "Who’s Who of Southern Africa: Professor Timothy Noakes". 24.com. Retrieved 2009-06-06. [dead link]

Coordinates: 33°57′50.04″S 18°28′52.91″E / 33.9639000°S 18.4813639°E / -33.9639000; 18.4813639